Minimise braking

  • Jun 27, 2014
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Braking wastes energy, reduces momentum and requires more fuel as you accelerate again. Here's a smart guide to driving efficiently by minimising braking
BMW M3 Brake discs

Brakes have two functions – bringing the car to a halt when used completely and slowing the vehicle down when used partially. Either way, the kinetic energy generated by the engine is cut by the brakes and pretty much wasted as heat.


You cannot use the accelerator and the brake at the same time. It’s the most basic driving principle because they do exactly opposite things. But when you are not accelerating, you aren’t necessarily braking. The mass of the car helps it slow down due to gravitational force of the earth. This is the most efficient way to reduce speed and dissipate the kinetic energy developed by the engine. When you aren’t accelerating and the vehicle is moving forward, it is called coasting. Coasting saves you fuel because you are utilising the momentum and energy already developed to move ahead. No further power is developed to move the car ahead.


When you are too fast for a particular turn or a stop-light or a vehicle in front of you, you cannot coast to slow down speed. Lifting off the gas is just not enough to reduce speed. In such a case, you have to brake. Braking quickly cuts down speed and reduces momentum. You need to build that momentum again and for that you are burning more fuel. To minimise your braking effort, there are simple steps you can follow. First is become aware of the weight of your car. Once you get an idea of how much resistance it provides to air and friction, you will start calculating its coasting distances. This can help you save fuel as you will just be lifting off the accelerator a bit earlier than before instead of reaching closer to a car ahead or a stop-light and braking hard. 

Second is correcting you coasting speed by light tapping the brakes. If you are too fast, you can reduce speed to a coasting level by light braking and then slow down to a crawl instead of braking. Both these methods will reduce fuel consumption. Third is using gradients effectively. A car will require more power going uphill than going in a straight line and so if you are aware of the road up the hill, you can use the gradient to slow you down instead of reaching the top and then using your brakes. 

Brakes are the most essential safety device for a moving vehicle. You need a good set of brakes to feel safe but the flip side is that braking is the enemy of efficiency. Use natural speed reduction techniques like lifting off the gas and using your road conditions wisely to minimise braking and use braking only when you cannot just coast to stop. This will save you a lot of fuel. 

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